No hay esperanza

There’s a country of 130 million people on America’s southern border—one of our largest trading partners. Interestingly, Americans pay almost no attention to what’s going on in Mexico. How many could even name its leader? Indeed, how many Americans with PhDs could name its leader? I’ll bet more people could name Canada’s leader. Even I couldn’t remember Amlo’s formal name when I sat down to write this post. Here are some facts about him:

1. Andrés Manuel López Obrador was defeated in presidential elections in 2006 and 2012, and then claimed the elections were stolen from him.

Sound familiar?

2. In 2018, he campaigned on revising the NAFTA treaty, and did so after being elected.

Sound familiar?

3. He toughened his southern border to prevent illegal migration.

Sound familiar?

4. He tried to push Mexico away from clean energy sources, and back to fossil fuels:

The government has ended auctions to bring on more renewable projects. It tried to halt the final testing needed for new clean energy plants to come online. And President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his allies are pushing through legislation that would effectively kill existing renewable investments by favoring more expensive and dirtier energy sources. Combined with Mexico’s backsliding on its Paris Accord commitments, such measures will make Mexico a pariah among its more environmentally focused peers. And carbon-based taxes on imports in many markets — starting with Europe — could erode if not end Mexico’s manufacturing advantages. 

Sound familiar?

5. He made almost no effort to control Covid, and Mexico ended up being hit especially hard.

Sound familiar?

6. He campaigned against corruption, and then his office tried to prevent any oversight of corruption in his government:

One scandal featured the president’s wife and a $7 million mansion built by a top government contractor. Another involved the misuse of federal AIDS funds to buy Cartier pens and women’s underwear. Then there was the “Master Fraud,” in which $400 million flowed between 11 government agencies, eight universities and dozens of phony companies — with half disappearing.

Each of the cases was exposed thanks to Mexico’s freedom of information system, often ranked among the world’s most effective. Created in 2002, it has allowed journalists and researchers to wrest documents from a government long known for opacity.

The system has been “one of the most important democratic advances in Mexico” since the end of one-party rule in 2000, said Roberto Rock, a journalist who lobbied for its creation.

Now, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants to rein in the National Institute for Access to Information, or INAI, the independent body that runs the system. He says it’s expensive and has failed to end corruption.

Sound familiar?

He’s also not exactly a strong proponent of the MeToo movement.

Obrador is a man of “the left” and Trump is on “the right”, two terms that once had actual significance, but no longer have any coherent meaning in the 21st century.

Obrador was the great hope for the Mexican left for several decades. Then he was finally elected. Why isn’t his administration being widely celebrated? Why does no one seem to even care? Has everyone given up all hope for the future?

Remember when Daniel Ortega was viewed by Reagan as a communist threat in Nicaragua? He’s morphed from atheist left-winger to conservative Christian pro-business corrupt Trumpian presidente-for-life.

I never liked the left, but I do miss the time when people still had hope for the future, however misguided. Now everyone, even on the left, knows that it’s all just dirty politics. Now there’s no hope for the future.

Welcome to the 21st century!



27 Responses to “No hay esperanza”

  1. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    27. February 2021 at 12:26

    Scott: “5. He made almost no effort to control Covid, and Mexico ended up being hit especially hard.”

    Looks like unlike econ bloggers Orbador took Biology 101 so knows people can’t control a respiratory virus once it is widespread in the country. Like Sweden and the Netherlands, Mecico didn’t have lockdowns or worthless face mask mandates, although by the end of last summer 60% wear wearing them – mostly incorrectly.

    Mexican Covid deaths per million are at 1,400 and #13 in the world, about the same as France which has had two long, strict lockdowns. Sweden, which had no lockdowns and now 30% mask use is #16 in the world and the Netherlands which closed restaurants, bars and theaetes in spring with no masks, now over 50% in winter with spring type closings is at #27.

    The U.K., now in its third strict lockdown is #3 in the world in Covid deaths.

    So no, Mexico has not been hit “especially hard” but is in the middle of the top 30 countries and similar to other large Latin American countries.

  2. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2021 at 12:30

    Todd, LOL. No one believes the Mexican data, as their Covid deaths have been massively underreported. Please get up to speed before making a fool of yourself commenting here.

  3. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    27. February 2021 at 12:47

    Yeah, just because the US, UK and much of Western Europe has been over counting – the CDC changed how death certificates should be filled out last March by eliminating “main cause of death” – that must mean Mexico is massively underreporting deaths.

    A year too late for you, but I hope this helps if there is another pandemic:

  4. Gravatar of David S David S
    27. February 2021 at 13:11


    Thanks for broaching these topics, and it’s worth noting that Mexico has around 4 times the population of Canada. If we learned (or re-learned) one thing from the Trump presidency it’s that a cult leader can invent ideology as required. A racist nationalism is a big component but that doesn’t have to be executed with consistency. We’ve always been at war with Oceania.

    I would have failed the question: “Name the president of Mexico”

  5. Gravatar of Jg Jg
    27. February 2021 at 13:26

    I would agree with Scott on society’s bleak future. When our leaders are debating the morality of genital mutilation and sex changes (Biden hhs deputy nominee) , the civil society is in bad shape. When society severed the connection between sex and heterosexual marriage and procreation, it was downhill from there. Moral theologians pointed this out decades ago. You destroy the natural law purpose of men and women, then men and women can create their own reality about what is and what is not male and female and their ends.

  6. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    27. February 2021 at 13:30

    Don’t people in China still have hope for the future? Material standards of living have been getting better there even with dirty politics.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2021 at 13:50

    Todd, If you don’t know what you are talking about, just stop commenting.

    Lizard, Yes, the (Han) Chinese are more optimistic about the future than people in most other places. Only time will tell if that optimism is justified.

  8. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    27. February 2021 at 14:12

    “Todd, If you don’t know what you are talking about, just stop commenting.”

    Where have I been wrong? The two posts above are completely accurate.

  9. Gravatar of Michael Michael
    27. February 2021 at 14:13

    With regard to your EconLog post on “The Two Chinas” (I can’t comment there; I was directed that it’s necessary to respond to a verification email, but no such email was ever sent):

    You can try to explain the greater wealth of the south by reference to its more capitalist policies, but that analysis runs into some trouble with the fact that the south of China was the commercial center in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and in the Song dynasty (960-1279) and even in the Tang dynasty (618-907). The Tang dynasty is the period during which China settled the south, so the south has been richer than the north for just as long as it’s been part of China at all.

    You can try to explain the south’s greater success today by virtue of its more-capitalist policies today, but that doesn’t explain why someone a thousand years ago who knew nothing about economic policies would have had just as easy a time predicting what parts of China would be richer today. To the extent that the wealth is directly caused by the policies, it would seem that there’s something else causing the policies.

  10. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    27. February 2021 at 14:31

    I’d assume Mexico’s policy on fighting corona was correct. Utilitarian arguments for doing nothing in my opinion increase the poorer a country’s economy.

  11. Gravatar of David S David S
    27. February 2021 at 15:17


    Off topic to this post, but is the attached complete idiocy or something to consider?

  12. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    27. February 2021 at 16:56

    Hope for the future through political action: yes, this is a lost illusion, and good riddance!

  13. Gravatar of TAFKAA TAFKAA
    27. February 2021 at 17:33

    Todd, Do you have some strange form of amnesia? You always come back here with the same basic points and make the same arguments. Even if we put aside the matter of whether your points have been disproven in the past or not, it seems awfully strange to act as if you’ve never made the points or haven’t received hundreds of critical posts about them. I’m thinking this may be a plausible theory that explains your behavior.

  14. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    27. February 2021 at 18:32

    Todd, You are citing worthless Mexican data that no knowledgable person believes. Mexico has a massive underreporting problem and one of the world’s highest excess death rates. Get out of your epistemic bubble and find out what’s going on in the world.

    Michael, You said:

    “so the south has been richer than the north for just as long as it’s been part of China at all.”

    Not so, the two regions were fairly equal a few decades ago, indeed the north may have been richer.

    What is true is that the stronger commercial traditions in the south may explain why its local governments adopted more market friendly policies. Culture matters.

  15. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    27. February 2021 at 21:47

    So Scott singles out Mexico as a country with worthless data and won’t discuss any other Latin American countries but despite his claim of worthless data he is certain Mexico is massively undercounting Covid-19 deaths.

    So Scott “I never took a college level science course” Sumner, please enlighten us on how many Mexicans per million have died from/with Covid-19.

  16. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    28. February 2021 at 04:24


    Leonard Cohen had great foresight on this in the 90’s… all of this. It’s frightening actually.

  17. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    28. February 2021 at 09:03

    @Todd Kreider is right on, except he does mix apples and oranges by comparing young Mexico’s C-19 response to aged Sweden and France’s. @SSumner makes his typical ad hominem attack to anybody who dares disagree with him. Funny how SSumner comes up with a conspiracy theory (‘fake Mexico data’) when facts don’t fit his preconceived worldview. Yet Sumner thinks the Uyghurs are OK in western China and thinks the C-19 virus is natural, despite the evidence to the contrary. Even worse, he thinks money is strongly non-neutral.

    Bonus trivia: I am an investor in MEF (Mexico fund). Mexico’s economy is under-banked and as soon as they fix that problem and also population problem (open borders?) they will, due to their young population, become a powerhouse.

  18. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    28. February 2021 at 09:22


    I agree we don’t know much about Mexico. It obviously has to do with language difference yet you write as if you are perplexed. And as an answer to your questions I now understand why I liked the Mexican President w/o knowing his name. What does Reagan have to with anything? And when are you going to focus on this administration! LoL. Never of course. And this is the first time I realized your tendency to not believe some data is when it disagrees with your ridiculous biases.

  19. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. February 2021 at 10:25

    Todd. I hope you are not the Todd K over at MR who said Israel had vaccinated 90% of its population!

    Ray, LOL, off your meds again?

    “Yet Sumner thinks the Uyghurs are OK in western China”

    Michael, Do you know a single expert who denies that Mexico has massively underreported the Covid deaths? If not, then what’s your point? Please become informed before commenting, unless you want to end up as a worthless troll like Todd and Ray.

    And I’ve done plenty of posts criticizing the Biden administration. Please pay attention.

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    28. February 2021 at 10:39

    mbka, Maybe if they made that our national anthem, then more people would be willing to stand when it’s sung. 🙂

  21. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    28. February 2021 at 12:36

    Yeah, my error as Our World in Data has 90 vaccinated per 100 people but that includes two shots. It doesn’t change my question a but since almost everyone over 60 in Israel has received a shot but their cases and deaths declines are no faster than those in Canada or Spain where there have been almost no vaccinations nor are Israel’s cases and deaths increases per day falling any faster than in the US or UK. That can only be because the drive to herd immunity including those who have had Covid and those who have prior immunity is swamping vaccination effects. Once again, the vaccinations have come too late to do much.

  22. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    28. February 2021 at 14:36

    sumner’s a rube and Mexico is a crap hole. I wouldn’t invest in Mexico. Like the Chinese and Democrats, they can’t be trusted.

  23. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    28. February 2021 at 19:22

    Personality based populism knows not of ideology: The number of issues the caudillo cares about tend to be small. As someone quite a bit to your left, I put Amlo in the large list of caudillos with leftist messaging, and think that Mexico would be far better off with a low corruption right winger than with him. The problem is that, unlike in many other Spanish speaking countries, corruption runs rampant everywhere, so you are always choosing between terrible people. Looking at Latin American history makes it very clear that the price government officials pay for self serving misbehavior is just way too low. It’s the same in the US, but somehow the US system has been very fortunate in not electing thieves.

    If you want to look at another pile of corrupt pestilence, look at Spain. The Catalonia independence movement? All about rich corrupt families wanting less oversight. The former king of Spain? Millions in tax fraud, out of the country to avoid zealous prosecution. COVID policies that make the US look good.

    We used to look at corruption mostly from the prism of development economics, but we are all in underdeveloped countries after all.

  24. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    1. March 2021 at 06:50

    Todd, it looks like as of December, Mexico’s excess deaths over trend were more than double its reported Covid deaths. Particularly in the absence of lockdowns, I would think the most likely case is that Mexico is not finding and reporting all of its Covid deaths.

  25. Gravatar of Lizard Man Lizard Man
    1. March 2021 at 06:57


    The first province in China just scrapped the whole urban/rural household registration rigamarole. I would be very surprised if most other provinces (with the exceptions of Beijing, Shanghai, and maybe Tianjin and Guangdong) don’t follow suit. So it looks like China will (slowly, much too slowly) be ending the tragedy of the left behind children. My experience is that few people will talk about that, but the hukou system has done immense harm. So life should be getting better in China, because children and parents will be much less likely to be separated from each other due to government policy. And yes, this doesn’t reflect well on the party, as they are merely starting to desist from policy that brings great harm to the people of the country.

  26. Gravatar of Njnnja Njnnja
    1. March 2021 at 07:30

    Welcome to the end of history!

  27. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. March 2021 at 08:59

    Lizard, Yes, and they are also moving away from the one child policy, one step at a time. I wish China would move faster, but life is gradually getting better for the Han (not the Uighurs.)

    Bob, You said:

    “so you are always choosing between terrible people.”

    Unfortunately, that’s mostly true.

Leave a Reply